A Chula Vista charter school has become contested territory as employees and the school district battle over the rights of its employees in an unusual case that highlights the complexities of the relationship between charter schools and the school districts that oversee them.

Charter schools ordinarily handle their own staffing as autonomous, independently run schools with public funding. Clear View Charter Elementary School, however, forged a different agreement with the Chula Vista Elementary School District when it converted from a traditional district-run school into a charter.

Because they were originally hired by the school district, Clear View and other “dependent charter” employees were given some of the same rights as teachers in the school district, such as returning to jobs in the school district whenever they chose, said Susan Fahle, assistant superintendent of business for Chula Vista Elementary School District. That meant that Chula Vista had to issue temporary contracts to teachers in district schools so that charter teachers were guaranteed a place if they decided to come back to the school district.

Now the school district is giving them an ultimatum: Come back to the school district, or relinquish your right to return and become a charter-only employee.

“We can’t extend a benefit to one group of teachers that we don’t extend to another,” Fahle said.

The issue has loomed large at Clear View Charter Elementary School, where most teachers are still district employees. Under the ultimatum, if all the employees keep their rights as district employees, the school would have to surrender its charter and become a district-run school when the charter expires on June 30, 2009.

Teachers voted in August against renewing the charter, but parents and staff on a special council at the school have subsequently voted to delay moving forward on that plan, said Amber Goslee, a teacher at the school. Many are lobbying for another solution that would keep their rights and the charter intact. Parents have also formed a website to keep families and teachers updated on the issue.

Employment rights within the school district “have been an existing condition since 1991,” Goslee said. She and other teachers are considering rewriting their charter to renew their focus on critical thinking and character education rather than standardized testing.

I’ve put in a call to Clear View director Sherroll Stogsdill-Posey to chat more about the issue.


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